If you write, or fancy yourself a writer, it’s important to have your original writing read. The title of this post is half tongue in cheek and half serious. Go ahead, have your Mom read your stuff or read it to her. Unless she’s still holding a grudge due to an incredibly difficult and painful birth, she’ll likely tell you that your writing is wonderful. Your BFF and your Aunt Ethel might do the same with a few minor corrections here and there. This is why you need fresh eyes to take a look at your material. I suggest seeking out other writers in the same area and genre in which you write. This can be accomplished in a number of different ways.
The website Meetup.com is a good place where you can find local writers groups in your area. By looking in the Literature and Writing section of the site, which keys into your geography or any geographic parameters you wish to use, I was able to find 32 distinct groups with everything from haiku to horror and lots in between. Included in this listing was a “brown bag” session that is held twice weekly at San Diego Writers, Ink and is a lunchtime writing prompt session where the brown bag is your own lunch. It was great to see this session in the listing since I attend a weekly read and critique session for screenwriters at San Diego Writers, Ink and I recommend this type of format for fellow writers.
In our weekly screenwriters read and critique session we come prepared with pages of our scripts. Script copies are distributed to fellow attendees and they take parts. Usually the person who has written the piece doesn’t take a part so as not to influence the read. Once we have completed the read, we discuss what we have read and how it helps or doesn’t help drive the story forward. Having given our loglines before the reading commenced and a brief synopsis of where we are in the story, the story should logically move and the script should reflect such movement. It’s been my experience that the critique has been constructive and this is much in thanks to the facilitator of the sesssion, Carlos De Los Rios, Carlos sets the groundwork for everyone engaging in constructive criticism that includes suggestions for alterations to the material rather than just stating something like “that was awful” or “that didn’t work for me.”
What’s become abundantly clear to me in this whole process is that when I have a room of five people who can’t figure out or understand the reason for something being in my piece and how it drives the story forward then, even though I may have strongly believed that that part worked, there is a problem that would likely affect a decision maker who might read the script. This read and critique process both rewarding and frustrating at times especially when there may be one person who doesn’t understand the material or doesn’t understand the humor in the case of a comedy and suggest that it be altered when the rest of the room doesn’t have any issues with that part. All in all, if you can find something like this read and critique session in your local area, I wholeheartedly endorse this approach Just remember, your Mom loves you and she won’t give you the bad medicine you might sometimes need when it comes to your writing.